Monday 20 November 2017

Banking Inquiry to remove Nazi remark from Ronan's evidence

Developer Johnny Ronan
Developer Johnny Ronan

The Oireachtas Banking Inquiry is expected to agree to a request by developer Johnny Ronan for the removal of a controversial Nazi slogan from his official submission.

Mr Ronan has apologised for his use of the phrase "Arbeit Macht Frei" in his statement to the Banking Inquiry and has formally sought to amend his evidence.

The use of the phrase, which translates as "Work will set you free" and was hung at the entrance to many Nazi concentration camps, sparked outrage throughout the Jewish community last week.

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter yesterday welcomed Mr Ronan's apology and said he hopes it will "alleviate the hurt felt by those with family members who perished in the Holocaust".

In a statement, the Dublin-Rathdown TD said: "The statement issued by Mr John Ronan recognising he should not have used the phrase 'Arbeit Macht Frei' in his submission to the Oireachtas Banking Committee and that he has requested that it be removed is welcome. I also welcome his apology and his recognition that his difficulties with Nama 'are not comparable with the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime'."

Mr Ronan used the controversial phrase to close his 21-page written statement to the banking inquiry in which he attacked Nama over its handling of debts owed by Treasury Holdings, a company he founded with Richard Barrett in 1989.

But in a statement released on Saturday, the business- man said the use of the phrase was inappropriate. "I recognise that I used an inappropriate analogy in my submission and have written to the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry to request the offending phrase be removed," the statement read.

While inquiry sources last week indicated they were "powerless" to amend the statement, Mr Ronan's decision to apologise and formally request the removal of the German phrase is likely to be accepted.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy told the Herald that he expects the matter to be discussed at the next meeting of the inquiry.

"As it is not a point of substance in and out of itself, more a careless or hurtful historical reference, I wouldn't see a problem in accepting the request," the Dublin Bay South TD added.

Mr Murphy's colleague on the Banking Inquiry, Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath, also confirmed he would support its removal.

Another inquiry source said he expects the submission to be amended because the controversial phrase does not impact on the "substantive nature" of the submission.

"It doesn't have a material impact, so I believe Mr Ronan's request can be accommodated," the source added.

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